I don’t care if you’re new to fantasy baseball, or have played for many seasons. You’ve never seen anything like the 2020 season. Sixty games spread over 66 days. It’s going to be a two-month sprint to the finish at the end of September, and your draft strategy is going to be different as a result. If you’re looking for an edge in this strange new environment, I’m going to give you one over the next few weeks.
If you’re playing in a league(s) that have already drafted, I don’t think you will have the opportunity to redraft. I drafted two public league teams before the pandemic shutdown, and ESPN has told me they aren’t going to redraft. Therefore, I’ll be checking the waiver wire regularly for any values before the season starts. Many of the players listed below should be available right now on your waiver wire.
One of the big changes for the abbreviated 2020 season is the universal designated hitter (DH). That’s right, the controversial DH is coming to the National League for this season. That means NL teams will need to find designated hitters, and that reality boosts a number of position players by providing more playing time. Here are some National League players, with their ADP, who benefit from the DH rule:
TOMMY EDMAN, CARDINALS
I will start with the Cardinals, because they’re my favorite team. Utility player Tommy Edman benefits from the DH because it opens up more playing time for him at third base. The Cardinals are committed to keeping Matt Carpenter in the lineup, which had left Edman in limbo since third base has been Carpenter’s position. Now, Carpenter can DH, and Edman has a clear path to starting at third. ADP 137.
DYLAN CARLSON, CARDINALS
I saw Dylan Carlson play in a spring training game in February, and I was impressed. Carlson hit .292 with 26 home runs and 20 steals in 126 games in the minor leagues last season. He is a top MLB prospect. The DH coming to the NL should be good news for Carlson, as he was on the edge of making the starting lineup in spring training. The DH means more at bats, and all this guy needs is a real chance. ADP 358.
AUSTIN RILEY, BRAVES
Austin Riley had an up and down debut last season, but showed the kind of power that could make him an impact player in a short season. In spring training, Riley was in a battle to make the starting lineup – at least in March. With the DH in play, Riley should get plenty of at bats in a strong Braves lineup. He’s a sneaky late-round draft pick and is available on the waiver wire in some established leagues. ADP 322.
GARRETT HAMPSON, ROCKIES
Garrett Hampson, like the others on this list, needs playing time to become fantasy relevant in the thin air of Colorado. After a great September last season, he looked bad in spring training, hitting just .226/.286/.290, with eight strikeouts in 35 at bats. Hampson can play the infield and outfield, so that helps his cause in getting playing time as the older Daniel Murphy could slot into the DH spot. ADP 205.
WIL MYERS, PADRES
Wil Meyers had a strong spring, slashing a solid .300/.364/.733, with five RBI and a team-leading three home runs. He also had an 18.1 percent strikeout rate after a career-worst 34.3 percent mark last season. Without the DH, it looked like he would be a part time player. Now, he can play in the field and DH. He has power and enough speed to be a fantasy asset in spite of a low batting average. ADP 285.
HOWIE KENDRICK, NATIONALS
If I told you there was a player who hit .344 last season, with a .966 OPS, and has a career .294 average over 14 seasons, you might be surprised to know that he’s only about 10 percent owned in fantasy leagues. I’m talking about Howie Kendrick. This great hitter will benefit from the DH rule because he’ll get more at bats at DH. The short season will save the wear and tear on his 36-year-old body. ADP 305.
RYAN BRAUN, BREWERS
Like Kendrick, the universal DH is just what Ryan Braun needs. He’s also 36 years old, but he’s still a really good hitter — he had 22 homers, while batting .285 in 2019. Braun has a career .298 average over 13 seasons. He also has double-digit steals in 12 of those 13 years. The DH solves the Brewers’ problem of how to get this talented hitter in the lineup daily. He will be the Brewers primary DH. ADP 255.
YOENIS CESPEDES, METS
If Yoenis Céspedes’ has recovered from his recent injury and is ready to play baseball in four weeks, he’s the natural DH for the Mets. He’s a lifetime .274 hitter, who hits 30+ home runs if he is able to play a full season. Given his injury history, Cespedes was iffy to play at all in 2020. But putting him at DH allows the Mets to reap the benefits of his offensive prowess with less worry about reinjury in the field. ADP 344.
JESSE WINKER, REDS
The acquisition of outfieldis ers Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama made Winker a risky fantasy bet in 2020, in spite of a career .845 OPS and .909 OPS against righties. But now he has the opportunity to be the Reds’ primary DH. His batting average dropped from .299 to .269 last season, but he hit 16 home runs in just 338 at bats. He will be probably available late in the draft or on the waiver wire. ADP 410.
HUNTER PENCE, GIANTS
Pence is the obvious DH candidate for the Giants, given his age (37), and the fact that he’s coming off a season with the Rangers in which he played mostly in the DH slot. Pence batted .297 with 18 home runs and a .910 OPS in just 83 games last season. When Pence signed with the Giants, he seemed destined for the bench. Now, he can DH – a new lease on life for a player who has an injury history. ADP 606.
JAY BRUCE, PHILLIES
Jay Bruce should be pretty much locked into the DH role and still has power when given at bats. He’s not going to hit for average, but he has the ability to have an impact in a short season. After a poor 2019, he should be able to focus more on hitting instead of his bad defense, and he is a cheap source of home runs. He’s another player that will be available at the end of the draft if you need power. ADP 627.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the last four players listed, Cespedes, Winker, Pence and Bruce, are considered sleepers, or even deep sleepers. These players, and all of the players listed, should be watched carefully in summer training. Please note I’m calling the period beginning July 1st summer training, to distinguish it from the period called spring training which ended abruptly in March when the pandemic started.
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